Dallas Cowboys: Mike Woicik

Cowboys turn to ballet for help

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
IRVING, Texas -- Ballet and football don’t seem to go together, but the Dallas Cowboys are hoping the combination helps in their quest to lessen their hamstring injuries.

The team has installed ballet bars outside the locker room at three different heights for players to use for extra stretching.

Associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, “told me, ‘You know, that’s going up for you,’ and he started laughing,” safety Matt Johnson said. “If they work, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

Johnson did not play in a game as a rookie in 2012 mostly because of hamstring injuries. He did not play in 2014 because of a foot injury. Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Dwayne Harris, Justin Durant, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Lance Dunbar, Danny McCray, Gavin Escobar and Barry Church were among those missing games or practices with hamstring injuries last season.

"We’ve put an emphasis on addressing, as an organization, some of the injuries that we’ve had,” coach Jason Garrett said.

The Cowboys have also changed their pre-practice stretching routine, as well going through what Garrett called a "dynamic warmup." Johnson said strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik used a similar routine with the New England Patriots.

"Typically we’ve done kind of the old team stretch, and we’re experimenting with dynamic warm-up -- stuff that I’ve done, other coaches have done in the past,” Garrett said. “You try to be innovative, you try to evolve, you get feedback from players, feedback from coaches, we’re just trying to help our players get themselves more ready to practice and hopefully stay healthier over time."

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

April, 12, 2014
Apr 12
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we talk about the Cowboys' drafting injured players, Anthony Spencer's possible return, a position switch for Morris Claiborne and a Matt Johnson update.

If you want to see the Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:


Cowboys hope to quiet hamstring issues

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
IRVING, Texas -- One of the Dallas Cowboys’ homework assignments in the offseason has been to figure out a way to avoid hamstring injuries.

Twelve players suffered strains of varying levels and missed either game or practice time in 2013: Miles Austin, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Bruce Carter, Danny McCray, Barry Church, Dez Bryant, Lance Dunbar, Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams.

The shortened offseason conditioning program could play a factor in the increase in injuries, but it has not affected every team. The Cowboys have studied other teams’ approaches and injury numbers to come up with a solution.

Coach Jason Garrett said one possibility is cutting back on the time spent on the field, especially early in the offseason.

“It is valuable to do the football stuff. We don’t feel like there’s a lot of football stuff right now,” Garrett said. “We want to be careful about how much we take away from that. But there’s a couple weeks prior to all that stuff starting. We’ve talked about tweaking the daily schedule and what we’re doing those first couple weeks as we start to lay the foundation for the offseason.”

While many players train on their own before the official offseason program starts in April, there is only a two-week period of training before players get on the field for teaching sessions.

“[Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik] I know is certainly not happy with it,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “[Athletic trainers] Jim Maurer and Britt Brown0 are not happy. I know Jason’s not happy with it and I damn sure know Jerry [Jones] and I are not happy with it. So we’re looking at ways to try to work on that.”

One way might be doing less instead of more.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
Part 1 of the Cowboys’ Twitter mailbag is ready for your perusal.

In it we discuss the futures of Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray, if the running game will change with Scott Linehan and what the Cowboys might do at the safety spot.

Away we go:


Cowboys position breakdown: Coaches

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer break down the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.

Under contract: Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli, Bill Callahan, Monte Kiffin, Wade Wilson, Gary Brown, Derek Dooley, Mike Pope, Frank Pollack, Keith O’Quinn, Matt Eberflus, Jerome Handerson, Leon Lett, Ben Bloom, Joe Baker, Rich Bisaccia.

A look back: For the first time since he arrived as an assistant coach in 2007 Jason Garrett did not call the offensive plays. It wasn’t Garrett’s idea, but he had little choice in the matter. Owner Jerry Jones wanted Bill Callahan to do the job, so that’s how it went.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tom HauckAfter a third straight 8-8 season, Dallas' Jason Garrett made several key changes within his staff.
The Cowboys averaged 27.4 points per game but had their fewest yards in a season since 2005. For the final six games of the season Garrett asserted himself in the process, relaying the plays from Callahan to the quarterback. Garrett maintained Callahan called the plays throughout the season.

Defensively, it was a disaster for Monte Kiffin. The Cowboys’ move to the 4-3 could not have gone worse. Injuries depleted the defensive line and took their toll on the linebackers by the end of the season. Players counted on to have big seasons – DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne – didn’t and Kiffin was unable to come up with any answers.

The Cowboys allowed the most yards (by a wide margin) and the second-most points in franchise history. Kiffin's return to the NFL after a run with his son, Lane, at Tennessee and Southern Cal, was a flop.

Special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia might have had the best season of any assistant coach. The special teams were better across the board in 2013 and he interviewed for the head coaching jobs with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.

A look ahead: Rod Marinelli has replaced Kiffin as defensive coordinator, although the Cowboys cushioned the demotion by naming Kiffin the assistant head coach/defense. Callahan has been replaced as playcaller by Scott Linehan, who is a Garrett confidante.

The Cowboys have denied teams from speaking with Callahan, which has not pleased Callahan and could lead to ill-will on the staff no matter how much the Cowboys try to put a smiley face on the situation. Callahan will return to coaching the offensive line full-time, which pushes Frank Pollack down the line after he did a good job with the group in 2013.

The Cowboys hope Marinelli can be as effective as a coordinator as he was in his three-year run with the Chicago Bears. He will need more talent, especially on the defensive line. He will need to be more creative than Kiffin as well. Players play hard for him and believe in his coaching, but the confidence of the entire group was shot last year. Having Sean Lee return from injury and players like Ware return to form, will help.

Kiffin will be around but mostly in an advisory role. Tight ends coach Wes Phillips joined the Redskins and was replaced by Mike Pope, a long-time veteran considered one of the best in the NFL. Assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol also left.

A look out: The Cowboys have set up an interesting situation on the offensive side of the ball by hiring Linehan and demoting Callahan, but Garrett believes the transition will be smooth because the system remains in place.

But how well will Linehan and Callahan work together? Are there too many people involved in the offense with different agendas? It will make for interesting viewing.

On defense, the move to Marinelli should also be easy because the system remains. He should be more adept at handling the current game than Kiffin, who could not come up with ways to slow spread offenses.

But this year will be all about Garrett, who is entering the final year of his deal. The Cowboys gave him the authority to make the changes on the staff, and it’s up to him to make it work. He has been able to keep the players on his side despite three straight 8-8 finishes. They believe in what he says. Now the actions have to back up the words.

Position breakdown:

Running backs
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Defensive line
Offensive line
Defensive backs

Dallas Cowboys coaching tracker

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
IRVING, Texas -- With changes on the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff, it’s time to update the tracker.

Rod Marinelli is the defensive coordinator but will continue to work with the defensive line. He'll receive more help from Leon Lett and Ben Bloom.

The changes are in bold.

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Passing game coordinator: Scott Linehan
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Rod Marinelli

Assistant head coach/defense: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Mike Pope
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O’Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/defensive line: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Cowboys' coaching staff tracker

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
IRVING, Texas -- Since we parsed Jerry Jones' words Tuesday about the current state of the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive coordinators, let's parse what head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday when it came to Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan.

Like Jones, Garrett said both are under contract for 2014. Unlike Jones, however, Garrett said roles could change, but he would not elaborate.

What does it mean? Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.

Kiffin, who turns 74 next month, has said repeatedly he is not retiring. Could the Cowboys move him to a consultant role like they did with assistant head coach/wide receivers Jimmy Robinson last year? Robinson was not spotted at one practice in the offseason, during training camp or during the season. He is in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl looking for a job in 2014.

Given how Jones and Garrett handled the announcement of Callahan as playcaller last year, first with Jones saying it, then Garrett denying it only to come back a day or two later and say, indeed, Callahan would call plays, this is shaping up as an only-with-the-Cowboys situation.

With that in mind, let's look at the current state of the staff:

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Vacant
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O'Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/linebackers: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Wes Phillips left the Cowboys to be the Washington Redskins tight ends coach. Offensive assistant Dave Borgonzi left for a defensive assistant's job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mikal Smith also worked with the Cowboys secondary last year but did not have a specific title. He joined his father, Lovie, in Tampa Bay. Assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol and the club agreed to part ways, and the Cowboys will likely give that job to Carlos Polk, although Garrett did not confirm the position at the Senior Bowl. Polk served as an intern with the Cowboys in 2013.

Coaches like Bloom, Baker, O'Quinn and Woicik would need new deals to remain with the team in 2014.

Mike Woicik probably will return

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
The Cowboys lost 77 games to injuries in 2013, including 23 to hamstring injuries.

Among the key players lost to injuries were DeMarco Murray (two games), Sean Lee (five games), Morris Claiborne (five games), DeMarcus Ware (three games), Justin Durant (six games) and Miles Austin (five games).

The man in charge of getting players back from injuries and keeping them healthy was Mike Woicik, the strength and conditioning coach, who just finished his 24th NFL season. Woicik has been a part of six Super Bowl title teams.

According to a source, Woicik's return is probably certain for a 25th NFL season, barring a sudden change.

However, Woicik was under fire for the numerous hamstring problems the Cowboys encountered. Coach Jason Garrett is loyal to Woicik and said the conditioning staff was doing everything it could to solve the problem.

Several Cowboys players also dealt with back issues, including Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Ware.

During the season, the Cowboys reviewed how much running was done in practice, and the type of stretching and eating habits of players.

"We look at all those things, all the time," Woicik told ESPN Dallas in December. "Trainers, strength coaches always look at that. We're always looking for new ways that we can try to prevent it, but we don’t have all the answers."

The Cowboys could make a change once the coaching staff returns from a week off next week, but as of now, Woicik is returning.

Reserve/PUP an option for Jay Ratliff

August, 26, 2013
IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys begin the process of whittling down their roster from 88 players to 53 by Saturday, one option under consideration is moving Jay Ratliff to the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

If the Cowboys choose to put Ratliff on the reserve/PUP list, he would miss the first six games. He would be eligible to play Oct. 20 at Philadelphia, but the Cowboys would have three weeks to practice Ratliff and then another three weeks to move him to the active roster.

Stretch Smith joins Galloway and Company to discuss five positive and five negative things he took away from the Cowboys' fourth preseason game.

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Coach Jason Garrett did not rule out the possibility on Monday.

“We’re just going to take it day by day,” Garrett said.

Ratliff declined comment in the locker room.

When the Cowboys placed Ratliff on the active/PUP list to open training camp, it was under the notion it would be a short stay and he would practice once a strained hamstring suffered in the conditioning run healed.

Mackenzy Bernadeau suffered a hamstring injury in the same run and was placed on active/PUP but has been practicing since Aug. 2.

That Ratliff is still recovering from a sports hernia surgery from December raises serious questions, starting with what did he do in the offseason? He did not go through his rehab at Valley Ranch and was extremely limited in the organized team activities and June minicamp.

In Oxnard, Calif., all the injured players worked rehab on the field with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown or strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik. Ratliff did not do any on-field rehab work, but he did some individual pass-rush work with assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett.

“He does a lot of stuff in the weight room or by himself on the side with some of the guys that we have helping him with the rehab,” Garrett said. “Really, the biggest thing with him is gaining some strength to get to the point where he can start doing some stuff on the field.”

Linebacker Alex Albright had a sports hernia surgery after the season ended and was able to practice in the spring. Former cornerback Terence Newman had the surgery in 2008 and was back on the field in six weeks.

“I just think you’ve got to be careful comparing injuries,” Garrett said. “They can be the same kind of injury, but sometimes different people respond to the different severity of the injury. With Jay, we’re going to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go before we bring him back, like we would do with any player.”

Last year the Cowboys did not put Ratliff on injured reserve after he had the surgery because they held out hope he could return for a possible playoff run.

Not only did the Cowboys not make the playoffs, but eight months later Ratliff still can’t get on the field, and the Cowboys could keep him out -- at the latest -- until Nov. 28 when they play Oakland on Thanksgiving.

Cowboys hamstrung again by injury

July, 22, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – Second-year tight end James Hanna did not take part in Monday’s walkthrough because of a hamstring injury.

“We don’t think his injury is really, really significant,” coach Jason Garrett said, “and he’ll be back soon enough.”

On the face of it, Hanna’s hamstring injury is not that much of a concern. Maybe he will practice in a day or two and it will be a short absence.

But it’s another hamstring injury. Hanna joins Jay Ratliff and Mackenzy Bernadeau on the list of players with strained hamstring. And those get added on to the guys who had troubles with hamstring injuries last year, like Matt Johnson, whose rookie season was a washout largely because of two hamstring injuries. Miles Austin has had hamstring strains the two previous seasons, even if he did not miss a game.

There have been more hamstring injuries as well.

Garrett does not view the hamstring issues as an epidemic, but he said the team has looked at how many other teams have suffered to get a comparison. On the teams he has been on Garrett said hamstring injuries are “probably the No. 1 injury people have. There’s a lot of running going on in football.”

“You’re always evaluating that, evaluating all parts of your strength and conditioning program,” Garrett said. “We’ve looked at injury reports and, ‘Could we prevent this one? Could we prevent that one? What can we do better?' That’s something Coach (Mike) Woicik and his crew are always talking about and thinking about better ways to do things, and hopefully those numbers will be minimized the best we can.”

Cowboys begin voluntary workouts

April, 15, 2013
The Cowboys started voluntary offseason workouts Monday at Valley Ranch.

Most players worked out prior to Monday or were rehabbing injuries.

Here's a primer:

Who runs the program? Mike Woicik, the Cowboys' strength and conditioning coach, has a program in place for every player that includes lifting, running and even eating (if necessary). Woicik, who has won Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, monitors every player's weight. There were numerous injuries last season -- including to safety Matt Johnson, who missed the entire season -- and you could blame training, bad luck or the players themselves. Miles Austin battled hamstring injuries, but you can't blame Woicik. Coach Jason Garrett said sometimes Austin needs to be protected from himself and must communicate with the strength and conditioning staff how his leg feels.

The media: We're not allowed at Valley Ranch today, so please don't ask how the workouts are going because reporters are banned from the facility. The next time reporters will be allowed at Valley Ranch is for the predraft news conference with owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

The injured: Among the players who were injured last season and will begin workouts: Chris Jones (knee), Orlando Scandrick (hand), Barry Church (Achilles), Sean Lee (toe), Bruce Carter (elbow), Caleb McSurdy (Achilles), Orie Lemon (hamstring), Dez Bryant (finger), Phil Costa (ankle), Ben Bass (ankle), Donavon Kemp (knee) and DeMarcus Ware (shoulder).

What does voluntary mean? Players technically aren't required to show up and participate in the offseason program. Mike Jenkins didn't arrive at Valley Ranch during the voluntary period last season as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Jenkins was irked by the Cowboys' offseason moves to sign cornerback Brandon Carr and draft Morris Claiborne. Jenkins eventually showed up for mandatory workouts so he wouldn't get fined. Austin also failed to show up at voluntary workouts a few years ago after he was franchised by the team. When several teammates -- including quarterback Tony Romo -- noted Austin's absence, the receiver showed up.

Who gets paid? Some NFL players have financial incentive to participate in voluntary offseason programs. Some of the Cowboys who get workout bonuses: Ware ($500,000), Bryant ($250,000), Jermey Parnell ($100,000), Carter ($50,000), DeMarco Murray ($25,000), Tyrone Crawford ($10,000), David Arkin ($20,000) and Dwayne Harris ($10,000). And then there are those who would be docked pay for failing to complete the program: Mackenzy Bernadeau ($250,000), Jason Hatcher ($250,000) and Lawrence Vickers ($100,000).

Mandatory workouts: The Cowboys' first mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 11-13.
The Cowboys haven't finalized their coaching staff, but another change was made when assistant strength and conditioning coach Walt Williams was told he will not return for the 2013 season.

Williams spent two seasons with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys had numerous hamstring injuries during the season and several players took extra stretching from head of strength and conditioning Mike Woicik and assistant strength and conditioning coach Brett Bech, along with Williams.

Players praised the work of all three men.

Williams would conduct the team stretching exercises before practices at Valley Ranch.

However, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones promised change within the organization and while he's released defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and running backs coach Skip Peete, he noted in a interview on Dallascowboys.com that he's taking an extensive look at the entire staff with coach Jason Garrett.
IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant heard that Jerry Jones publicly wondered last week whether the receiver’s conditioning affected his concentration late in games last season.

Bryant doesn’t disagree with his boss. The young receiver considers Jones’ comments a challenge that he eagerly accepts.

“I don’t want to say I was in horrible shape, but I feel like I wasn’t at my best,” Bryant said. “I feel like now, I’m still not at my best, but it’s way better than last year and I feel like I’m still progressing.”

The owner, of course, isn’t the only Valley Ranch authority figure pushing Bryant. Head coach Jason Garrett, receivers coach Jimmy Robinson and strength coach Mike Woicik take turns getting in Bryant’s ear when appropriate.

Bryant, who claims that he’s dropped his body fat to 3.1 percent, has especially benefited from six-time Super Bowl champion Woicik’s frequent butt kickings.

“Of course, and I’m loving every minute of it,” Bryant said. “I love to compete, and what Coach Woicik is doing with us, I can see a big change in everybody’s ways and how they go about everything on the field.”

Garrett likes what he’s seen from Bryant this offseason.

“He’s working very hard,” Garrett said. “He’s done an excellent job in the offseason program both with lifting and with running, and he’s carried that to the field. He has to do exactly that.”

Jerry Jones challenges Dez Bryant

June, 1, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones, too often a willing enabler, was offered an excuse for Dez Bryant. He opted for a verbal push.

Consider that progress.

ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer discusses Jerry Jones' comments on Dez Bryant and Jason Garrett and the recent developments at Cowboys OTAs.

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Even if his theory doesn’t necessarily stand up to statistical examination.

Jones was asked how much he thought the deep thigh bruise Bryant suffered in last season’s opener affected the dynamic young receiver last season, something Bryant mentioned as a significant issue last week. Jones acknowledged that Bryant dealt with the injury throughout the year but quickly put the onus back on Bryant.

“I don’t know that it impacted some of the things that he needs to work on, and we need to work on as a coaching staff, to get him the ball and get him into plays,” Jones said. “When he would lose concentration in the last part of the game, I don’t know if that was because of conditioning. I suspect it could’ve been.

“That’s not be critical, but I suspect that, rather (than) the injury had anything to do with that or not, those are the things that we’re working on so he can be more impactful in the latter part of the game and we can do the kinds of things we need to do to get him the ball.”

It’s a good thing that the owner/general manager is pushing Bryant to reach his potential. Bryant needs Valley Ranch authority figures challenging him on a regular basis to reach his immense potential.

But Bryant’s fourth-quarter fades were an early-season storyline that was solved throughout the course of the season. At the end of the season, he had 244 yards and two touchdowns in fourth quarters. The first quarters (330 yards, five touchdowns) were the only frames that Bryant had better production. Bryant also had a 26-yard catch to set up the winning field goal in the Cowboys’ overtime victory against the Redskins, earning praise from quarterback Tony Romo for making a smart route adjustment based on the coverage played by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

That doesn’t mean Bryant shouldn’t get better. Much, much better.

Conditioning is certainly a part of that. Bryant readily admits that, bragging about the progress he’s seeing in his body while working with six-time Super Bowl champion strength coach Mike Woicik.

“I feel like this year, I'm spending more time focusing on my body and making sure everything is right,” said Bryant, who gloated on Twitter this week that his body fat was measured at 3.1 percent.

Bryant was pretty good last year, catching 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns in his second NFL season. It’s a testament to his talent that a lot of folks consider that underachieving.

Rest assured that Bryant has plenty of people pushing him to reach his potential, a list that includes Valley Ranch’s big boss.

Miles Austin refreshed by offseason

May, 10, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Miles Austin did not mean to cause a stir with his comments in a Men’s Health magazine video last month regarding his conditioning in 2011.

To refresh, here’s what Austin said: “I'm feeling great right now, by the way. Right now I'm working with the trainers at our facility. I feel like last year, I wasn't prepared for the season in the way I should have been condition-wise, even though I looked and felt like it at the time. That's one thing I have to keep an eye on, to make sure I'm in the best physical shape I can be."

Austin, who missed six games with two different hamstring injuries in 2011, was asked about the comments at the Cowboys’ sponsorship golf tournament Wednesday.

“I feel like I’m working differently now than I did then, that’s what I meant by that,” Austin said.

Last year’s lockout prevented the traditional offseason program. Austin took part in all of the player-run practices, worked out with a handful of players and was in shape. This year Austin and his teammates are under the supervision of strength coach Mike Woicik and his staff, working on more football-specific conditioning.

“It’s just a great thing to be in such a team environment right now working with our guys,” Austin said.